How long do patents last?

How long do US patents last?

Different types of patents have different lifespans.  All of the answers below are for United States (US) patents.

How long do patents last?

How long do utility patents last?

Utility patents last 20 years from the earliest priority or 17 years from the date of issue, whichever is longer. Note that you must pay maintenance fees to keep the patents alive.

How long do design patents last?

Design patents last 15 years from the date of issue.  Design patents do not need any maintenance fees.

How long do plant patents last?

Plant patents last 20 years from their application date.  No maintenance fees are required for plant patents.

How long do drug patents last?

Drug patents (and some medical devices) can be extended in some circumstances while undergoing FDA approval.  This can extend the life of the patent by up to 5 extra years. This is known as “Patent Term Extension.”

What is the effect of a terminal disclaimer?

A terminal disclaimer restricts a patent to expire on the same day as another patent.  This occurs when someone tries to get two patents on essentially the same invention. 

What are patent maintenance fees?

The USPTO requires maintenance fees for utility patents at 3.5 years, 7.5 years, and 11.5 years.  Maintenance fees will cost $1000, $1880, and $3850 at each of those stages.  Large companies will pay double these prices.  (Maintenance fees are current as of Dec 2020 and are adjusted yearly.)